Adventures of a Transplated Gardener- Ginny Stibolt

Ginny Stibolt with her mulch pile.  Typical!

Ginny's Garden Log

 

The main purpose of this log was to expand on the gardening adventures that Ginny wrote about in her Adventures of a Transplanted Gardener columns, but now she writes at The GreenGardeningMatters blog.

Current postings and other posts to Ginny's Garden Log Meadow page 

This is the Seventh postings page (1/6/08 - 4/27/08): Topics include: zucchinis, blue-eyed grass, grasshoppers, bolting lettucebird-friendly, irrigation, great sunflower, pot bound, spring, woodpeckers, carrots, mothyellow mulch, warm day, JAX arboretum, NOAA's predictionsedges


A zucchini bloom in the morning light.  Photo by Stibolt.

4/27/08 The zucchinis are coming! The zucchinis are coming!!  Our new vegetable bed seems to be providing a good rich environment for our zucchinis.  They've taken off.  At the far end of the bed I created two mounds of compost and well-composted horse manure and created an indentation in the top of the mounds equivalent to a heaping two-handed scoop of soil.  I planted three or four seeds around the outside of the mounds.  As soon as the seeds sprouted, I filled the indentations with water most every day.  This is in addition to normal irrigation.   

We now have five plants—two on one mound and three on the other.  A few six-inch zucchini fruits are growing bigger each day and soon we'll be inundated—happily so.  We love them and find a lot of ways to use them including raw in salads, in stir-fries, steamed with rice, grated in bread, and more.  If you have a great way to use zucchinis, let me know.  If I receive enough ideas, maybe I'll post an article in the height of zucchini season as a public service.

Yesterday I posted an article, The Lawn Less Mown.  Not only have we reduced the size of our lawn by developing good sized meadows where lawn used to be, the lawn we still have is mown less often most of our neighbors', but it still looks quite presentable.  I also discuss the treasures found in the lawn such as the blue-eyed grass as seen below.


4/20/08 In today's NY Times Magazine Michael Pollan wrote an article Why Bother?  He sums up the problems of our attitudes on what impact our meager efforts to correct our own lifestyle can possibly have on the larger picture.  Please read it. 


Blue eyed grass dug from the lawn.  Photo by Stibolt

4/17/08 Blue-eyed grass and other treasures from the lawn: Last week my husband mowed the lawn for the first time since November, while most of our neighbors mow theirs every week throughout the year.  Before he mowed again I roamed around the yard to look for desirable plants and wildflowers that I could use elsewhere.  I've transplanted some rushes to various damp spots.  In several areas in the yard, blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium) grows amongst the St. Augustine grass.  The leaves are about the same texture as St. Augustine, but when growing where it gets mowed, the leaves spread out.  Since they are blooming now, it's not too hard to spot these treasures in the lawn.  To remove them I slide my trowel between the St. Augustine runners and unweave them from the blue-eyed grass.  

Blue-eyed grass is a member of the iris family and I'm expanding one of my rain gardens so I have need for plants that tolerate wet feet and drought.  I'll also plant some rushes (Juncus spp) and meadow garlic (Allium canadense) in this bed and I've purchased 30 rain lily bulbs (Zephyranthus atamasco) that are pink, yellow, and white.  It will be interesting to see how they do along side of my wild, white rain lilies.  More on the rain garden expansion coming soon.


Eastern Lubber Grasshoppers, Romalea guttata. Photo by Stibolt.

4/4/08 We were invaded this week by a herd of devil's horses, AKA eastern lubber grasshoppers (Romalea guttata), the dark form.  Since they had conveniently arranged themselves all together and they don't fly, I slid them into a bag, squashed them, and deep-sixed them into the compost pile.  I know, I know: I'm supposed to keep the bugs for the birds, but nobody goes after these guys especially when they get really biglike six inches. 

Before the garden expansion--the shovel marks the spot.  Photo by Stibolt

I posted an article today on the expansion of our vegetable garden, A New Bed... and Standing Stormwater.  I posted a photo of how it looks today in the article, but I thought you might be interested in how it looked a couple of months ago when we were just starting.   The lawn next to the sidewalk to the garage and along the existing vegetable patch was worn with the constant traffic. We decided to combine both projects: the path and the new vegetable bed.  The path between the two beds will provide easy access for tending and harvesting the vegetables without walking on the planting areas   The shovel stuck in the lawn marks the far end of a path that extends from the curve in the sidewalk in the foreground of the photo. 

We planted peppers and tomatoes yesterday from their starter pots.  They seemed to be languishing in the pots, so now we wait to see if they start growing better.  However, the zucchinis that we planted 10 days ago have really taken off.  They are growing a new leaf almost every day, now.  Pretty soon the neighbors will start to hide as we'll probably have zucchinis to give away.

Today would have been my mother's 93rd birthday.  We lost her 13 years ago.  She was an avid gardener and I often wish she could see what I'm doing these days.   Maybe there's another dimension to the Internet that we don't know about and that she's been reading this log.  Happy birthday, Mom.


Burpee's mixed greens at various stages. Photo by Stibolt

3/31/08 Bolting Lettuce: The early crop of lettuce from the Burpee's mixed greens that I planted this year are bolting, so I've been pulling up whole plants, harvesting the leaves and throwing the stalk and roots in the compost pile.  We've been eating a lot(!) of salads.  Once the bolting occurs, the leaves are supposed to become bitter.  We haven't noticed any bitterness with this crop even though I haven't harvested them until the stalk is quite tall and the buds have formed.

In between the more mature plants I've planted newer crops.  The theory is that every few weeks, you plant a few more so you always have just the amount you need.  I guess I over-estimated on that first planting.  Some of the newer plants are still quite small, I hope we'll be able to harvest them before the high heat of summer. 

Today a podcast on my book progress was posted on Florida's Times Union website.  


Hand chopping growth in the front meadow.  Photo by Stibolt

3/24/08 My bird-friendly yard podcast was posted today.  Here is the link to Florida's  Native Plant Society: www.fnps.org where you can find a good listing of larval foods for specific butterflies and more.  Jacksonville's local chapter has local events.

And speaking of bird-friendly, I've done some work in our various meadows--it's been two years.  I hand-chopped the growth and pulled or dug out most of the tree seedlings in the front meadow the other day as shown to the right.  I also raked and removed a lot of the dead vegetation--most of it went on the compost pile.  This allows for better growth of new species.  I want to preserve this as a meadow and not have it transform itself into a wooded area.   I did leave a small area uncut so black berries can grow there.  The birds love it. 

In January I finally finished clearing the wedelia from the back meadow and sowed various wildflower seeds on the bare soil--it was in good shape after a few years under the cover of the crawling invader.   The birds now have better access to all those worms.   I'll post photos of the back meadow later in the season.  


3/20/08 Today a podcast about pot bound plants and suggestions for better success in planting woody plants was posted: Pot Bound Plants.  I talk about how much extra irrigation a newly planted tree or shrub needs for the best results.  It is most sustainable to have as many of your purchased or transplanted plants survive as possible.   Also here is the link to my recent article on the same subject: Pot Bound!

Irrigation Requirements after Planting Trees

   Each time you irrigate, it's best to water with three gallons per inch trunk caliper (the diameter of the trunk at six inches above the root ball of saplings). For example, use six gallons for a two-inch caliper tree. Apply slowly, so all water soaks into the root ball.
   If a tree is two to four caliper inches, the best practice is to water daily for one month; every other day for the next three months; and after that water weekly until established. If a tree is more than four caliper inches or if it's a palm, the best practice is to water daily for six weeks; every other day for the next five months; weekly after that until established. 
   After the initial period, continue to supplement irrigation for your tree during drought conditions for at least a year. Two is better.

This is a subject I've tackled for my book, so I thought I'd share the suggested amounts of extra irrigation required per size of the tree or shrub--this is over and above the general landscape irrigation.  As you can see, this ends up being a lot of extra work, so you might wish to set up an extra drip irrigation system to make it easier.  The old advice of buying the largest tree you can afford doesn't consider the longer irrigation schedule for its establishment.  Purchase only plants that you can easily care for.  There's no point in killing the most expensive tree you can afford because you can't (or won't) supply the water it needs for survival.


Rain lily at the edge of the pond.  Photo by Stibolt

3/19/08 The Rain Lilies are Blooming Again.  Like Kathryn Hepburn's famous quote about calla lilies, I mark the times when lilies bloom.  The pond has been at its high level for more than a month and the rain lilies (Zephyranthes atamasca) along the edge have been blooming.  The ones in the rain gardens and other beds have not.  I trust that they are thinking about popping out as well, because we've had a pretty wet spring so far.  (3/24 update: a couple of the rain lilies in the rain garden are in bloom.)

Our irrigation system has been off for the winter and will remain so for another six weeks or so.  Our source of water is the lake out back, but Lake Asbury has been lowered by about five feet to attack the rampant hydrilla growth.   This exposes the shallows so hydrilla growing there dries out and the remaining acreage of water is much reduced for the herbicide treatment.  Neither the drying nor the herbicide will kill the tubers, though.  Now we wait to see if there are enough carp to keep up with its growth.  Unless we receive rain, the springs raise the level about one inch per day.   

It's times like this that make me appreciate our rain barrels and the free and chemical-free water we have to use on transplants, crops, and house/porch plants.  Today I posted another article on rain barrels (Rain Barrels Revisited) to answer some of the many questions and requests for clarification I've received since March 2005 when I posted the first article. 


Bee on a sunflower.  Photo by Stibolt

3/10/06 Today I recorded four podcasts with Cherri Pitzer of The Times Union's www.jacksonville.com  The first one posted is about the Great Sunflower Project.  This initiative comes from San Francisco State University where they want people to help them monitor sunflowers for pollinators.

You can register to take part in this project on their website: www.greatsunflower.org.  This is a great project for schools and other groups that include kids.  When you register, they will send you seeds and instructions.  Now is the time to plant sunflowers here in Florida so don't delay.  It won't cost you anything to get started, but you'll gain a greater understanding of pollinators in your neighborhood and you'll be contributing to the overall knowledge base on urban and suburban pollinators.  As an added bonus, you'll have pretty sunflowers to enjoy.

Oh yes, I found out about this project when the director, Gretchen LeBuhn, contacted me to use the photo above and another sunflower photo that I've posted.   Cool, eh?  Here's a link to my original article: Sensational Sunflowers.


Teasing the roots out of a pot bound plant.  Photo by Stibolt.

2/29/08 Happy Leap Day!  Last night I posted an article regarding some of those native plants I bought last Saturday and how I treated them.  They were Pot Bound!

In this photo you can see that I'm using knitted gloves with rubbery fingers to tease out the roots of my pot bound coreopsis.  I thought I'd give them a try this time instead of leather gloves.  For the most part, they work better because there is more flexibility and a finer sense of touch.  They seem to be holding up a little longer, too.  But, they don't work as well as leather for prickery tasks--the prickles and thorns go right through them.   Oh the pluses and minuses always make you think...


Hooded mergansers in Ginny's front pond. Photo by Stibolt

2/28/08 Hey, what happened to spring?  We had a touch of frost last night.  It's kinda late for us and I hope my seedlings in the back meadow will be okay.   

<< Just at dawn this morning 10 or 12 dapper hooded mergansers with their formal black and white plumage were in our front pond.  I'm not sure if they'd spent the night here, but as the sun rose, they headed north.  This region is their winter range.


2/23/08 Today I attended "A Day of Gardening" up at the IFAS building on McDuff Ave.  It was great event with lots of information and I came home with a bunch of Florida native plants.  I'm excited to have them, because every little bit helps.  I posted some photos of the event here:  http://photos.jacksonville.com/mycapture/folder.asp?event=451807

A pair of pilated woodpeckers in a red bay tree.  Photo by Stibolt.


2/7/08 Yesterday I spotted three pileated woodpeckers out in our front meadow area and caught these two book-ended on a red bay tree by the pond.  Aren't they beautiful?? There is a lot of bird activity--the cardinals are looking again at last year's nest at the corner of the back screened porch.  The red shouldered hawks have been putting on an aerial acrobatics show.  Spring is coming.

This morning I posted an entry in the NY Times blog, Dream Home Diaries, and recommended Gil Nelson's book, Florida's Best Native Landscape Plants.  It includes the descriptions, the care needed, and suggested companion plantings for 200 readily available plants native to Florida.  

It's a great addition to any Florida gardener's library.  There are so many beautiful  plants plants native to Florida, there's no reason not to search them out.  


Ginny's carrot soup.  Photo by Stibolt

2/2/08 Sweet Treat Carrots.  Today I posted an article called, "Sweet Treat Carrots".   Read it to find out how carrots were ruled to be fruits by the European Union and what its ancestor probably looked like.  Plus you'll find my recipe for delicious carrot soup.  

I'm pleased to announce that I am the Florida gardening guru on the Regional Garden Gurus website.  Susan Harris of Garden Rant is the driving force behind this effort.  I'm working on a list for other Florida resources such as IFAS & Florida Native Plant Society.  If you have any ideas for resources I should list on this page, let me know.  (Update: the regional gurus site went away--not enough traffic.)

I've almost finished the wedelia removal from the back meadow.  It's close to a tenth of an acre and it's taken several weeks of hard work.  I'll be happy to plant some wildflowers out there.  Too bad it's not sunnier, but it'll be fun to see what survives.  I'll keep you informed, of course.  The next big project is to expand the vegetable bed, so we'll be ready for the spring planting.


1/31/08 The Brown Moth Chronicles  The other day I was ready to continue my wedelia removal--still(!).  I'm finally reaching the end of the back meadow.  Before I started with the pulling, something moved in the leaves.  It was hard to see the large brown moth with its folded wings.  It crawled onto my hand and I took its picture and placed it on a groundsel tree trunk nearby so I wouldn't step on it.  A few hours later it had crawled three or four inches right next to a sweet gum leaf caught in a branch crotch.  I seriously doubt that this moth will fly, but I bet there are pheromones in the area to attract a mate.

Brown moth climbed on Ginny's hand.  Photo by Stibolt Ginny placed the brown moth on a tree to get it out of the way.  Photo by Stibolt. The brown moth climbed up a few inches where it blended with a leaf.  Photo by Stibolt

P.S.  I may start calling this log "My Left Hand!"


Why is Ginny so happy with this huge pile of work in front of her??  Photo by Stibolt.

1/21/08 Today I posted a new article on my newly acquired mulch, Follow the Yellow Mulch Road.  I'd used up the last pile of tree trimmings about a month ago and I was feeling naked, garden wise, without a supply of mulch.  So when I heard that distinctive drone of a tree shredder in the neighborhood, I investigated and soon I was the proud owner of a huge pile of yellow mulch.

All those pollinators that I talked about below have been hiding for the last couple of days because it's been cold, rainy, and blustery.  The rosemary still awaits their return, though.   Before the rains came, (We received 1.62".  I love having a good rain gauge.) I planted the next round of carrots, onions, and lettuce.  

Oh, these carrots are really sweet and flavorful!  Photo by Stibolt.

I did start pulling the first carrots I planted  and we were pleased with how sweet and flavorful they were.  I'm pretty sure that some of the rich flavor is because they were so fresh.  And isn't it cool to produce your own produce??  


A honey bee works the rosemary flowers.

1/17/08 A warm day brings out the pollinators

Fortunately, the rosemary is blooming more than it has in previous years and it was covered with a variety of pollinators.  I even saw a polka-dotted wasp moth out front.  Oh these warm winter days...

What a mess the squirrels make under my sweetbay magnolia tree. Photo by Stibolt

The squirrels are performing their annual trimming of my two small sweet bay trees out front.  I have no idea what they are after, but they bite off the end of almost every branch, chew it for a minute and drop it to the ground.  What a mess.  I throw their leavings in the trash because the leaves are covered with sooty mold at this time of year and I don't want to add them to my compost pile or leave them on the ground. 

In my podcast on Global Warming I asked for a report on what you or your group is doing or will do during 2008 to be greener.  I'll post your answers as I receive them here on my log, and if there are enough responses I'll create an article and a podcast with the results.  This podcast may be more of a rant than usual, but I feel that each of us has a responsibility for our own footprint on the planet whether or not global warming is just another cycle or whether mankind has contributed to it.

For more information on the "Don't Feed the Algae!" podcast go to the St. Johns Riverkeeper website: www.stjohnsriverkeeper.org and get involved and skip the spring feeding of your lawn!!


A lovely woods with spring-fed creeks and a lake.  Photo by Stibolt.

1/12/08 This morning I participated in a trail clearing work day at the new Jacksonville Arboretum.  I hadn't been there before, but it's a wonderful wooded area that's been set aside since the 70s.  Find out more about this initiative at the website: www.jacksonvillearboretum.org and what you can do to get involved.  I posted more photos on on jacksonville.com.

A good turn out even though the weather was a little gray.  Photo by Stibolt.


30-yr Avg.
Rainfall for
Jacksonville 

Jan.

3.69"

Feb.

3.15"

Mar.

3.93"

Apr.

3.14"

May

3.48"

Jun.*

5.37"

Jul.*

5.97"

Aug.*

6.87"

Sep.*

7.90"

Oct.*

3.86"

Nov.

2.34"

Dec.

2.64"

Tot. =

52.34"

*wet months

1/8/08 Yesterday I recorded four podcasts and I'll be posting more details as each one is posted.

Today, my first one, NOAA's weather predictions, was posted on Jacksonville's Times Union website.  You can see the information for yourself at www.noaa.gov

Because of colder than normal temperatures in sections of the Pacific Ocean, we have a "La Niña" effect which means wetter and cooler weather for the NW regions of the US and warmer and drier conditions for us here in the southeast.   While we've just come out of a cold snap here, it has been dry.  The NW has recently experienced extraordinarily violent storms.  So we'll see how the averages play out.  And FYI, speaking of averages, to the left is the rainfall in Jacksonville as averaged over 30 years.  Notice that we have seven dry months and they are likely to be drier than the averages.  

Meanwhile you can prepare for more drought as I talked about in the podcast.  I mentioned that if you collect rainwater from 500 square feet of roof area (regardless of pitch), a one-inch rainfall will produce 300 gallons of water.  Here's the math:

Gallons = 0.6 x (Inches of Rain) x (Surface Area in Square Feet).  (The 0.6 is the conversion factor to translate inches of rainfall to gallons.  Actually, 0.62333 is possible, but you won't collect every drop of rain.  Some of it evaporates, or is blown off the roof, so 0.6 is a good estimate and easier on your brain.)  If you receive one inch of rain and gutters collect rainwater from say one fourth of a 2000 square foot roof or 2000 / 4 = 500 square feet, then 0.6 x 1 inch x 500 square feet = 300 gallons of water that will run through the downspout.

So celebrate 2008 with a few rain barrels.  You may be able to find a rain barrel workshop put on by your extension agent and you can learn more from one of my first Transplanted Gardener column on rain barrels.  Let me know how you do.  


After I'd removed the St. Augustine runners from the woods.  Photo by Stibolt.
After I'd raked the leaves in as a mulch.  Photo by Stibolt

1/6/08 A Gathering of Goldfinches

Yesterday a large gathering of goldfinches spent the day flitting around our front meadow.   I didn't get a photo because they are skittish and the zoom on my camera is not long enough to capture their presence from inside the house.  It was lovely to watch them eat seeds from dogfennels, tall grasses, goldenrods, beggarsticks (that looked terrible after the frost the other night, but their seeds were fine I guess), groundsel trees, and more.  This is why we don't chop the tall stalks down out here until February or March.  You just never know when a flock of hungry birds will fly in.

Today I posted an article called Cutting Edges about my annual trip around the lawn.  I posted the "after" photo of an area of lawn edged along our back wooded area.  I also took a photo after I'd pulled the St. Augustine grass runners from the woods and before I'd raked the leaves in for mulch.  I thought you'd be interested to see both the "before" and "after" shots.  Here is the related podcast: podcast Cutting edges.

Before and after raking leaves in for a mulch. >>
Note the mulching around the whole group of trees at the top of the photo.  This makes the job of mowing much easier and the trees don't have to compete with turf grasses and visa versa.  


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